Funeral planning: easing the burden for loved ones
(ARA) - It's a difficult subject to bring up. No one likes to think about the time when they'll no longer be here. But truth be told, everyone will need a funeral some day. Without planning ahead, they can be stressful, expensive and filled with disagreements. Or you can create an occasion where loved ones come together to reflect on a life well lived, without the pressure of quick decisions and worries about expense.
How can you accomplish this? Through preplanning, which allows you not only the opportunity to create the type of memorial and burial that fits your beliefs and preferences, but to also put your family first by taking away the anxiety caused by guessing what you might have wanted. Planning a life celebration is a priceless gift of security, compassion and care for those we love.
Under a cloud of sorrow and time constraints, family members are often overwhelmed and uncertain of the decisions that need to be made: Did Dad want a traditional funeral or did he want to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at the lake? What music would Mom want played? Who will preside at the service? Making the dozens of decisions that arise when someone passes away can be nerve-racking.
Seven Things Everyone Should Know About Planning a Funeral
1. Be informed about the choices available
Arranging a funeral or cremation service can seem complicated, but there's always someone who can help you. Funeral directors are trained professionals who can be a vital and supportive resource for you. They can explain all the options available and help you make informed decisions and guide you though the process.
2. Plan ahead
At a time of loss, there are many practical decisions that need to be made. Unfortunately, this is often the time when we're least able to approach the subject rationally. It makes sense to find a funeral director you can trust, before it becomes necessary. For more information, visit www.shareyourwishes.org, or call (800)-DIGNITY.
3. Decide the final disposition
Selecting burial, mausoleum entombment or cremation is a very personal decision. Discussion of your choice with family and documentation is essential. Whatever you choose, government forms, fees and the organization of a memorial service will fall to your loved ones without preplanning. For ease and peace of mind, choose a funeral home, such as a Dignity Memorial network provider, that will walk you through all the necessary arrangements.
4. Find out what government benefits are available
To find out your exact Social Security benefits, call (800) 772-1213 or go to www.ssa.gov. Veterans may be eligible for a burial allowance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. You can contact them at (800) 827-1000 or online at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/bbene_burial.asp
5. Don't be afraid to ask about prices
The cost of arranging a funeral can vary greatly between companies. Be careful to choose a funeral home that presents its prices -- the cost of the casket or urn, transportation fees, preparation charges, as well as other professional services -- clearly and simply.
6. Funeral or cremation service arrangements need to be documented
Many people think everything is taken care of by having a will and a living trust, but those documents only cover medical treatment and financial affairs. You should make sure that your wishes are shared in writing with several people you trust: family members, friends and your funeral director.
7. Consider prepaying
If you decide to prepay for funeral or cremation service arrangements, be sure to let your family know. Also, keep your prearrangement documents in a safe place. Check with your bank before placing copies in a safe deposit box to ensure the box will not be sealed at the time of death.
Another point to consider is that family members often have differing ideas and opinions that can escalate during such an emotional and exhausting time. And in today's world of blended families, preplanning can save children, step-children and extended family from disagreements about which cemetery, who will read a eulogy and who pays for what.
Many funeral directors agree, that while no one likes to contemplate death, making final arrangements in advance is like a gift to loved ones. It's also one of the best ways to ensure that things are take care of in the manner that you wish.
In an effort to "make the right choice," loved ones often spend far more for products and services than they normally would. When the wishes of a loved one are known, family and friends may be prevented from emotional over-spending in their rush to "pick something nice." Planning ahead enables comparison shopping without time constraints, facilitates the family discussion of important final arrangement decisions and removes some of the burden from loved ones.
One of the best ways to preplan is to sit down and put your thoughts in writing. Take time to record detailed instructions regarding funeral and cemetery preferences as well as documenting vital statistics, estate planning information and military service.